The following is an excerpt from an English newspaper published in Japan on Dec. 3.

  OSAKA--Public elementary and junior high school students here will be       allowed to bring mobile phones starting the next school year〉, but only use   them during natural disasters. …

  The education ministry issued a notice to all prefectural education boards effectively banning mobiles and smartphones at schools on the grounds that there is no direct need for such devices.

  The Osaka prefectural government 〈had followed the directive until now〉, with a few exceptions, such as for children who need to visit medical institutions when parents submit applications for treatment.

My question is about the past perfect “had followed the directive until now” in the last paragraph.

Shouldn’t this be the present perfect “has followed the directive until now” because the directive was issued in the past and has been followed until now?

 

 

Original Post

Hello, Fujibei,

Shouldn’t this be the present perfect “has followed the directive until now” because the directive was issued in the past and has been followed until now?

That's a good point, but there is a reason why the past perfect and not the present perfect is better in this case, and that is because the situation has now (already) changed: the Osaka prefectural (municipal) government used to follow the (national) education ministry's directive banning mobiles and smartphones at schools, but it no longer does.

The present perfect is used to refer to an action that started in the past and has effects on or continues up to the present. The "now" in the article is not synonymous with "this very moment" (in which case the present perfect could have been used), but extends a little further back, possibly to the moment when the local government changed the law on the use of mobiles at schools (at some point in the immediate past), which is why the past perfect is correct. "until now" would thus mean "until a few days/hour ago (when the regulation was locally changed."

Thank you for your reply but I still need your help to clear up my confusion.

The first part of the excerpt reads "Public elementary and junior high school students here will be allowed to bring mobile phones starting the next school year, ..."  That means the students are not yet allowed to bring mobile phones to school and the policy change will take effect only from the next school year, which begins in April in Japan. The local government is still following the central govenment's directive at this moment.

Is the past perfect still correct?

[...] the policy change will take effect only from the next school year, which begins in April in Japan. The local government is still following the central govenment's directive at this moment.

Is the past perfect still correct?

I think you are right. If classes have not yet finished in Japan, the present perfect would be more accurate: students at Osaka shools are still subject to the old directive.

However, the author of the article may have decided to use the past perfect because, as I said in my previous post, the new regulation has already been adopted and reference is being made to the passing of the regulation, not to the effective date of the policy change. Legal provisions very often establish a future date for effective implementation (Starting from April 2019 students at Osaka schools will be allowed to use mobile phones). The municipal authorities had followed the national directive up to now but have already decided not to follow it any longer, and it is this decision already taken that has led the author to use the past perfect as a way of showing that the old directive has already been discarded and a new one will be in force soon. The beginning of a new term seems to be the right time to start with the new directive.

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